Oct 16, 2012 by MARCO TORRES
How Ironic: Amid Beef Recall, U.S. Audits Canadian Food Inspectors
Amid the beef recall from XL Foods, the federal agency responsible for protecting Canadians from food safety hazards will itself soon be under the microscope, albeit from another corrupt food agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The agency says the USDA audit is to include a visit by U.S. inspectors to the XL Foods beef packer in Brooks, Alta. The plant has been involved in a massive meat recall prompted by an E. coli scare. A strain of the bacteria linked to XL has made at least 15 people in four provinces sick.
Guy Gravelle, a Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) spokesman, said the audit has been planned for months and was not prompted by the recall.
But he explained that it could play a role in whether XL will be allowed to resume beef exports to the United States if the plant gets relicensed by the CFIA to fully operate again.
This recall also includes unlabelled and/or unbranded beef products sold at retail stores not identified in the CFIA's product list, which may include small retailers, local meat markets and butcher shops, etc.
The USDA is hardly in a position to criticize the safety of any other country's food exports. Last year they deregulated a genetically modified (GM) product made by the most hated company in the world, Monsanto. The approval gave the agricultural giant's Vistive Gold soybeans the green light for production within the United States and Canada.
Canada suspended the XL plant’s permit to export beef products into the United States on Sept. 13 at the request of the USDA because of E. coli contamination concerns.
The U.S. is a key market for the company. The XL Foods recall south of the border involved more than 1.1 million kilograms of beef sold by 23 grocery store chains in more than 30 states.
Close to a third of Canada’s overall beef production is slaughtered at the XL Foods plant at Brooks, which has been idle since its licence was suspended by federal regulators on Sept. 27 due to an E. coli scare. More than 1,800 beef products sold by XL Foods have been pulled from store shelves since Sept. 16 in what has become the biggest recall of meat in Canadian history.
Tim Hoven -- owner of Hoven Farms, which produces organic beef -- said he has seen a “tremendous” increase in business since the onset of the E. coli scare. His farm, located between Red Deer and Rocky Mountain House, processes its meat at two small-scale abattoirs in Penhold and Lacombe and sells its products at a number of locations in Calgary, including the Kingsland Farmers’ Market.
Hoven said while none of his meat is processed at XL Foods, he doesn’t believe it’s the only factor behind the recent surge in demand.
“I think this whole beef recall is another wake-up call to people to come to understand how exactly their food gets from a farmer’s field to their plate,” Hoven said. “And whether that food’s coming from an Alberta beef farm or an organic vegetable farm in China, people need to know how the food’s grown and how it gets to their plates.”
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.